Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More on Women's Roles And Expectations

Lisa S. mentioned Florence King in the comments to my last post and that got me to thinking. I actually read all of King's books after finding Confessions of A Failed Southern Lady in my early teens (it was my Southern phase). I now wonder about the influence of that sharp-tongued misanthropist--perhaps my parents should have been more concerned that I was under the influence of an elderly conservative woman who wrote for The Nation as opposed to my finding out about sex through Judy Blume and possibly being offered drugs at a public school.

Well, all I can say is that Grace Livingston Hill novels never turned me into a Christian, and King was one of the few examples I had at the time of how compulsive thinking and snark were fun.

I think Lisa's got a point though with recalling King's memories among the perfection factory of women's colleges. I was reminded of this quotation from one of the women interviewed on NPR late this summer, Rachel Brownell "I think there are a lot of societal pressures on women that didn't use to be there. I think that, you know, I talk a lot with my women friends about how we are supposed to have soul-mate marriages, perfect children who speak two languages, a successful career. You know, I feel like the pressures and the things that we are supposed to be accomplishing are so insurmountable, it's really not a wonder to me that women turn to alcohol and pills and who knows what else to get them through."

That NPR story came about due to the Diane Schuler accident this summer, where a woman in NY drove into oncoming traffic and killed 3 passengers in the other car, herself, her daughter and her three nieces. Only her son was left alive. It's a darkly funny story to read in the media, because sensible people upon hearing about this tragedy said, "I'll bet you she was a secret drunk" while in the media and on message boards at the NY Times there was a lot of twisting of the situation into "She was a diabetic! Perfectly normal people who don't drink go camping with bottles of vodka! It was a terrible accident!" until the autopsy results came out showing, yes she was drunk and high.

For further exploration of the story, see here. The writer does a good job of sticking to the facts in the face of the husband's delusion, but what really gets me is the idea that this was a good marriage, this arrangement where they only saw each other on weekends, never spent time together, she was in control and it was all about having and raising kids. It sounds like hell to me, for everyone involved. Suburban nightmares, indeed.

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